The Totems — a program rich in tradition decades ago — will be the No. 1 seed when the South Island triple-A senior boys’ basketball championships tip off at the historic school tonight.
“From 2000 until now it’s been non-existent,” Niketas said of the program, which was resurrected three seasons ago when he managed to draw four of his athletes from Central Middle School to Vic High. “I’m a former Vic High alumnus and I knew the program had been in the toilet for a long time. I wanted to bring some of the kids and maybe start something.”
After some encouraging early steps, Niketas turned to managing this season and handed the coaching reins to Cory Ahlers and assistant Chris Marsh, a standout for the Totems who then played at UVic from 2002-04 before playing pro in Europe. The team has flourished with a 9-1 record during the Division 2 season.
Tonight, Vic High will play No. 4-seed Royal Bay at 7:30, following the Reynolds (No. 2) vs. Mount Douglas (No. 4) clash at 5:45. The winners will play for the city championship at 7:30 p.m. on Friday after the third-place game. The top three advance to the Island championship, which is also set for Vic High next week.
“We’re trying to do something great, it’s more about the program than it is every single game,” said Ahlers, who moved up from coaching junior to senior. “Obviously, we want to win and have success, but it’s about reviving a program and I think they realize they’re a part of something bigger.
“Helping revive the program means a lot more than playing basketball and having success — it’s the bigger picture and I think that’s really cool,” added Ahlers, who is a sports management student at Camosun College.
“Tak deserves the most credit, I think, for the entire resurgence. He’s a Vic High alum and he takes a lot of pride in the school and its glory days.”
And that has been passed on to the current players, including Niketas’s son, Chris, who along with Linden Hamilton are the leaders on the team.
“It’s something we want to look back on and say, ‘Look, we brought this school back from the dead,’ and it’s awesome to know that,” said Chris, a Grade 12 student. “A lot of teams get shocked when they play us. They say we’re smaller, but our chemistry is awesome.”
Which is what Tak Niketas, Ahlers and Marsh were hoping to build, as they attempt to qualify the Totems for provincials. The last time Vic High managed that feat was 1996. The last time it won a B.C. crown was 1969.
For now, they are taking the development one step at a time.
Meanwhile, the South Island double-A senior boys’ championship tipped off and Parkland defeated Edward Milne 82-66 on Tuesday before losing 84-63 to Lambrick Park in Wednesday’s semifinals. Glenlyon Norfolk School downed Pacific Christian 59-52 on Tuesday before losing 76-42 to St. Michaels University School on Wednesday.
Lambrick Park now meets SMUS tonight at 7:30 at SMUS to determine the South Island champ. The top four teams advance to Islands at Brentwood College (which is seeded No. 1 in the province) next week. The host Blue Jags are seeded No. 3 in B.C., while Lambrick Park is No. 5 and Shawnigan Lake is an honourable mention.
At the quadruple-A level, there is no South Island championship this season because of a shortage of teams. Islands will be next week at Belmont. Oak Bay defeated Claremont 87-32 to cap the Bays’ regular-season undefeated run and they will carry the No. 1 seed.